Change Is Hard but Required for Consumer Strategy Success

How serious are health care systems about their consumer strategy?

For decades, consumerism in health care has been a “nice to have” but not a “must have.” Health care as an industry didn’t value customer loyalty because they didn’t see those utilizing their services as customers, they saw them as patients—and patients require care. Thus, the health system mindset has long been: patients need our care, which means, in turn, we obtain their loyalty. As someone who has worked in health care for decades, I understand why we believed this, but times have changed. A global pandemic obliterated the landscape, and now, one of the best paths to immediate revenue and sustainable growth is through a strategic consumer plan with customer loyalty as its foundation.

Change comes slowly to the health care industry—and it’s hard work! And while some may argue that we’ve made progress toward consumer strategy, we haven’t come far enough. In the past, I worked with a health care organization that claimed they practiced health care consumerism because they offered new moms a pedicure after giving birth. While this was a “nice to have,” it was not a consumer strategy. Today, Sg2 hears from health care organizations that they have a consumer strategy because they offer a patient portal and a cell phone app to make appointments. This is also not a consumer strategy, but rather a digital strategy. And while digital initiatives are valuable, they don’t encompass the breadth and depth of a comprehensive consumer strategy. The urgency is apparent, and the need is significant: it’s time to transition toward a customer-centric mindset.

What does a health care consumer strategy mean for health systems today?

Historically, the health care industry hasn’t required health care organizations to view their patients as customers with choices. Additionally, health care leaders haven’t acknowledged that consumer strategy can be revenue generating. These outdated conceptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the current climate, health care organizations are tasked with finding immediate revenue and sustainable growth while facing strong headwinds from novel disrupters, shrinking workforces and declining margins. Nontraditional players like Amazon and CVS have changed the game by prioritizing a consumer-centric approach. They swept in during the pandemic and eroded health system market share with a consumer strategy focused on a frictionless customer experience, easy access to care and niche primary care services.

Like banking, retail and many other industries, a health care organization’s satisfied customers are loyal customers who return for additional services and spend more dollars with that organization, leading to sustainable growth. The current transactional-based health care model, focused on increasing volumes, is no longer effective and leads to diminishing returns. Today’s siloed approach to growth at the service line level ignores the customer experience and focuses solely on increasing the number of transactions in the short term. This is not a sustainable strategy and ignores the natural attrition that occurs from losing patients over time. Don’t think of transactional ROI in the short term, reimagine customer lifetime value and ROI over the long term.

At its core, consumer strategy is a deliberate shift from a patient mindset to a customer mindset, followed by the development of tools and strategies to actively engage customers. Recognizing that your patients are your customers—and they choose where they go to receive care—is foundational.

How can health systems get started to achieve quick consumer strategy wins?

The smartest and most advanced health systems are already deploying multiple levers as part of a broad consumer-focused approach across their care continuum, including digital and technological change. These proactive and nimble systems are implementing customer strategy by prioritizing efforts across operations, marketing, technology and finance.

Reactionary health systems only use technology as a transformational lever. This strategy is short-sighted—focusing on increased volumes—and often fails to achieve customer loyalty. Instead, cultivating relationships should be the primary goal. A successful consumer strategy cultivates relationships and includes both offense and defense. This proactive approach requires executive buy-in to champion the strategy throughout the organization.

Kick-start your consumer strategy with Sg2

The bottom line is simple: revenue lift and sustainable growth generated from a consumer strategy is immediate and impactful to your organization’s revenue and your customers’ experience. To achieve sustainable growth, health care systems must pull through their internal teams and transition from a patient mindset to a customer mindset to actively engage customers. Your organization can kick-start your consumer strategy by partnering with Sg2 and your internal team members for these quick wins:

  • Partner with your marketing leads for direct-to-consumer outreach to deploy targeted marketing campaigns designed to attract more customers for your organization’s key services.
  • Partner with your ambulatory or service line leads for patient engagement optimization to assess and address access and capacity challenges to get patients in the door faster.
  • Partner with business development for physician referral management to reduce leakage as part of a customer loyalty strategy to retain patient care within your health system.

Finally, partner with Sg2 for our Consumer Innovation solutions, which are composed of analytic tools and consulting services that focus on the above three key areas that affect the total health care consumer experience and are the essential building blocks for crafting a customer loyalty strategy that can ultimately help drive near-term revenue generation through rapid impact growth.

Does your organization have any other strategic plays that provide immediate revenue lift and sustainable growth?

Learn more about Consumer Innovation here, and reach out to us to get started with your consumer strategy!

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